Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?


In Front of Sellout Crowd, Tasca, Kalitta, Enders and Herrera Qualify No. 1 at NHRA Midwest Nationals

Looking to move into the points lead in the NHRA Countdown to the Championship playoffs for the first time in his career, Funny Car’s Bob Tasca III clinched the No. 1 qualifier in front of a sellout crowd on Saturday at World Wide Technology Raceway at the 12th annual NHRA Midwest Nationals.

Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel), Erica Enders (Pro Stock) and Gaige Herrera (Pro Stock Motorcycle) all qualified No. 1 at the 18th of 21 races during the 2023 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season, and the third of six races in the Countdown to the Championship playoffs. Saturday also marked the eighth sellout of the 2023 NHRA season.

Tasca picked up his sixth No. 1 spot this year as Friday’s run of 3.852-seconds at 324.90 mph in his 11,000-horsepower Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Mustang held up during Saturday’s final two qualifying sessions. Currently second in points, Tasca trails Robert Hight by less than a round as he looks for his second straight victory in the postseason. He’ll open eliminations against Jack Wyatt and heads into Sunday with plenty of positives after a strong pass of 3.877 at 331.85 to close out the evening as well.

“Very exciting, but one round at a time, one run at a time,” Tasca said. “We really don’t pay as much attention to what the cars around us are running. We have enough data now with this car and enough track information to go up there and try to go as quick as we can for the conditions that are presented.

“You want to be in the (championship) conversation. No one can guarantee a championship. No one knows what’s going to happen over the next four races, but you want to be in the conversation. That’s why the sponsors invest in us, that’s what the fans cheer about. We’re going to do the best we can and if we come out victorious, it’s that much sweeter. But this is what it’s all about. I’ve been around a lot of successful teams. We’ve had some good runs, but this is clearly our best run at it.”

Chad Green moved all the way to second with a solid run of 3.886 at 330.47 and Blake Alexander took second with a 3.888 at 326.79.

Kalitta hung on to his second No. 1 qualifier of the season and the 53rd in his career thanks to Friday’s run of 3.709 at 331.85 in his 11,000-horsepower Mac Tools/Toyota dragster. The points leader will open eliminations against Lex Joon, looking to stay perfect in the Countdown to the Championship. The veteran, who is chasing his first world championship in Top Fuel, has won the first two playoff races, building a strong lead against the likes of Steve Torrence and Justin Ashley. He has marveled at the team’s consistency in the postseason and Kalitta hopes to continue their stellar run on Sunday in front of another huge crowd in St. Louis. Kalitta also went 3.72 to close out qualifying.

“I was really happy with that .72 in that last session,” Kalitta said. “My car has been really consistent. I just can’t say enough about how hard everybody is working on my car. Great crowd here today, a sellout. Connie Kalitta is our fearless leader out here and given me a great opportunity over the years.

“It’s just nice when it all can come together like it has the last couple of races for my car. We’re just going to hold on and do our best and keep going rounds, as many as we can get. We’re definitely looking forward to tomorrow, whatever it gives us, and hopefully we can have it dialed in real nice.”

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

Mike Salinas took the second spot with a run of 3.710 at 329.75 and Antron Brown was right behind in third with a 3.714 at 331.69.

After earning her third straight No. 1 qualifier to open the playoffs thanks to Friday’s run of 6.549 at 209.69 in her Johnson’s Horsepowered Garage/Melling Performance Chevrolet Camaro, Pro Stock’s Erica Enders has a chance at history on Sunday. With her next win, the defending world champion will become the winningest female driver in NHRA history. She’ll open eliminations against Eric Latino, hoping to secure her 47th victory this season and first in the Countdown to the Championship. Enders has also dominated over the years in St. Louis, winning four straight seasons heading into the weekend. Her six overall wins are the most for any driver at the track.

“I’m definitely excited to head into raceday,” Enders said. “St. Louis has always been really good to us, and we hope that the trend will continue tomorrow – but there are a lot of really tough competitors out there. I’m hopeful to park that JHG/Melling Performance car in the winner’s circle. We’ve got our work cut out for us, but I’m looking forward to it. 

“I haven’t thought about [the record] on raceday, but no matter when it comes it will be a huge honor. Angelle [Sampey] was one of my heroes growing up, and we’re great friends now. To be the all-time winner for females in any form of motorsports is pretty substantial and an honor I won’t take lightly.”

Points leader Matt Hartford moved up to second with a strong run of 6.549 at 207.75 and Troy Coughlin Jr. qualified third with a pass of 6.558 at 208.97.

Gaige Herrera tied Matt Hines for the most No. 1 qualifiers in a single season in Pro Stock Motorcycle history, securing his 11th top spot in 12 PSM races with Friday’s run of 6.716 at 201.79 on his Mission Foods/Vance & Hines Suzuki. Hines set the mark in 1998 and Herrera matched the mark more than 25 years later as he continued his dominant season. The points leader made two more quality runs on Saturday, taking plenty of momentum into Sunday as he aims to pick up his first win in St. Louis and his eighth victory of the season.

“This is very cool. I just have to give it up to Andrew (Hines, crew chief) and all the guys at the shop and Matt, included,” Herrera said. “They’re the ones that make that possible. To be able to tie Matt and get that many No. 1 qualifiers in one season, it’s incredible. There have been a lot of remarkable, crazy, things I’ve accomplished so far this year but to add something like this to it is pretty cool. 

“We tried to do different things on the bike today, the track is kind of a little tricky for us, so I feel like we made good passes considering. We’ll go back and go over all our data and be ready for tomorrow. All in all, I felt pretty good on the bike and it should be good tomorrow.”

Defending world champion and defending event winner Matt Smith took second with a 6.766 at 201.76 and Eddie Krawiec bumped to third thanks to his 6.773 at 201.25.

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

Eliminations for the NHRA Midwest Nationals begin at 11 a.m. CT on Sunday at World Wide Technology Raceway in St. Louis.

This story was originally published on September 30, 2023. Drag Illustrated

You May Also Like


The star-studded STREET OUTLAWS: No Prep Kings series is set to return for its 6th season in the summer of 2023. Fans can expect to...


Street Outlaws: No Prep Kings star and renowned engine builder Pat Musi joined the recent episode of The Wes Buck Show and provided an update...


Street Outlaws: No Prep Kings star Lizzy Musi announced today that she has been diagnosed with stage four breast cancer via her Youtube channel....


Ryan Fellows, who starred in “Street Outlaws: Fastest in America,” died in a tragic crash while filming for the show in Las Vegas on...

Since 2005, DI has informed, inspired and educated drag racers from every walk of the racing life - weekend warrior and street/strip enthusiasts to pro-level doorslammer and Top Fuel racers. From award-winning writing and photography to binge-worthy videos to electric live events, DI meets hundreds of thousands of racers where they live, creating the moments that create conversations.